Regardless of your goal, we all wish that running felt easier. Running can be a painful, slow process – but what if we told you that just 10 minutes of bodyweight strength work would make it feel infinitely better? Well, that’s where conditioning your hamstrings comes in.
Those are the muscles located at the back of the thighs. When you run up hill, it’s your hamstrings that are dragging you up. When you’re trying to run faster, those hammies are propelling you forwards. They’re one of the most powerful groups of muscles in the body – and they can make the world of difference to your running capacity, whether you’re a beginner or seasoned racer.
Fortunately, you don’t have to head into a gym to build stronger hamstrings. They’re one of the easiest muscles to train from home; you only need a mat and 10 minutes.
Below are PT and Strong Women Training Club instructor Sam McGowen’s favourite, no equipment hamstring exercises. Add these to your repertoire for when you want a proper back-of-the-leg burner. Stick them into an existing leg-day workout, create a circuit from them or use them as a warm-up before your run.
4 best bodyweight hamstring exercises
Single leg glute bridge
“If you’ve been doing glute bridges for a while, you may have reached a point where you’re not feeling it much anymore. Doing single leg work is really useful here, as you’ll be putting all the weight through the one side,” says McGowen. Think about foot placement too: the further away your feet are from your bum, the more your hamstrings will work.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Start with the heel about a hands width away from your bum, but play around with this to see what targets your hamstrings, glutes and quads the most.
- Tuck your left knee in towards your chest and hold onto it with your right hand.
- Place your left hand behind your head.
- Tuck your tailbone by pushing your pubic bone towards the sky and pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
- Press through your right heel to lift into a bridge position.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top before slowly lower back down.
Repeat 15 times each side
McGowan says that the hamstring walkout is another simple advancement on the glute bridge, but with additional hamstring focus.
- Begin lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, heels about a hands width away from your bum.
- Lift up into the glute bridge position by pressing through your heels so your hips come off the floor – remember not to arch through your spine.
- Step your right foot forwards, so your right heel comes further away from your glutes. Do the same with your left foot.
- Keep stepping each foot forwards until your legs are straight, or as close to straight as you can get them.
- Slowly step them back in to the starting position.
Repeat for 30-60 seconds
Stepping your front foot further forwards will also put more load through the back of your leg, so play with the positioning.
- Stand in front of a raised surface, be it a box, step, sofa or chair.
- Place your left leg behind you so your toes rest on the edge of the surface.
- Keep your chest open and core engaged as you bend your right knee and lower down towards the floor.
- Press up with your weight through your right heel.
Repeat 15 times on each side
(If you do have dumbbells, you can always hold them as you perform a split squat for extra resistance.)
“You don’t need fancy sliders for these – you can just use your socks or a towel on laminated floor,” says McGowen. No hard floor in your home? Try placing your foot in a plastic lunchbox so you can drag your foot along the carpet.
- Come back into the glute bridge starting position and lift your hips up off the floor.
- Keeping your right foot pressed into the floor, slide your left heel forwards until it’s straight.
- Dig into the floor with your left heel to pull it back towards your glute. Don’t let your hips fall to the left hand side – instead keep your glutes squeezed so they stay square.
Repeat for 15 reps each side
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